Ever had the same old fight over and over? Do you wonder why, or what in the world you can do about it? Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is, disagreeing with your spouse is normal. The bad news? According to Dr. John Gottman’s research, 69% of problems in relationships are perpetual or unsolvable. Couples will return to these issues over and over again in their relationship. These are often grounded in fundamental differences between two people: differences in personalities, needs, or expectations. 

So, what do we do if all our problems can’t be solved like the fairy tales taught us? Gottman suggests creating a dialogue around them instead of attempting to solve them.

Sometimes, disagreements can bring a couple closer together. The key is how you and your spouse handle it when you disagree. Successful couples learn and grow together through difficult times. 

Here are some steps to take when you disagree with your spouse:

1. Don’t avoid the issue.

Disagreements are best handled when you acknowledge they exist. If you’ve been married more than a minute, you’ve probably run into a disagreement or two. Let’s be honest: Planning a wedding is full of disagreements, so why would we expect marriage to be different? If the best way to navigate disagreements is to create a dialogue, it’s best not to avoid them.

The more you practice managing your disagreements, the better you can stay connected and engaged as you navigate them.

2. Listen.

Becoming a good listener is essential if you want to maintain a healthy relationship. Far too often, people listen to respond, but the key is to listen to understand. Listen to your spouse’s viewpoint. Ask questions, don’t interrupt, and seek clarity. Good listening skills will help you recognize those perpetual issues. (READ The Art of Communication for more great info!)

3. Practice empathy.

According to U.C. Berkeley researchers Levenson and Ruef, empathy is the ability to accurately detect the emotional information being transmitted by another person. But empathy isn’t just understanding how they feel; it goes a step further. Empathy is an action. It’s feeling what your spouse feels. Don’t worry too much if you struggle with empathy, because it’s a skill you can learn.

4. Be respectful.

A common theme in our house is that everyone deserves to be treated with honor, dignity, and respect – not because of anything they have done but just because of who they are. This starts with our marriage. When you disagree, attack the problem, not the person.

We’re all individuals with our own opinions. Be careful not to belittle your spouse just because they don’t see eye to eye with you. Remember, we grow through our differences.

5. Seek a resolution.

People often say, “Let’s just agree to disagree.” That can be a great thing in marriage. Suppose your disagreement is due to a perpetual issue. In that case, you won’t find a resolution, but you may be able to compromise. You can agree that it’s okay to disagree and seek a compromise you both can live with.

Brush up on those negotiation skills and meet each other in the middle.

The goal of managing a disagreement isn’t to win. It’s to understand each other and find a mutually beneficial solution. Marriage is a partnership of two imperfect people choosing to build a life together and move toward each other throughout the journey. You’re going to disagree with your spouse, but you can use those disagreements to grow closer together.

Sources:

How to Improve Your Relationships With Effective Communication Skills

How Successful Couples Resolve Conflicts

Managing Conflict: Solvable vs. Perpetual Problems

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